James J. McNeice, Jr. age 87, of Pittsfield/Dalton, and Naples, Fla., died in his sleep on Friday evening, Oct. 30th, after a long illness.
A pillar of the community, he was a popular civic leader who devoted his entire career to nurturing the youth of the city. A Pittsfield native, Jim was born in Pittsfield, April 28, 1933, to the late James and Ruth (Croughwell) McNeice. He was the former Executive Director at the Catholic Youth Center (CYC) and dedicated his life to not only giving children a place to go to get off the streets, but to provide them with a structured, safe environment full of recreational and vocational programs where they could play, learn, and have fun growing up. He was someone that all the children could look up to and someday emulate.
A devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, he is survived by his three sons, James III and his wife, Lisa of Estero, FL, Kenneth of Pittsfield, MA and Timothy of Fitchburg, MA, two grandchildren, James IV of Fort Myers, FL, and Tara Zehnder and her husband Jacob of McGuire AFB, NJ, and two great grandchildren, Aiden McNeice and Justin Zehnder.
He and his wife, Joan S. (Shepardson) McNeice celebrated 54 years of marriage prior to her death on July 18, 2011. James was the oldest of 7 brothers and sisters. He became the patriarch of the family when his father passed in 1985 and his love and guidance will be sorely missed by those siblings he leaves behind; his brother Robert McNeice and his wife Linda of Richmond, VA, his sisters Mary Anne Archey of Pittsfield and Catherine White and her husband Michael of Dalton, and his sister-in-law Patricia McNeice of Pasadena, MD.
He was predeceased by his brothers John, Father Charles (Bud), and David McNeice and his brother-in-law, James H. Archey.
Jim was involved at the Catholic Youth Center since the first grade and took after his father, James J. McNeice, Sr., who was program director from 1927 to 1946. At the age of 46, after serving as the Program Director for 19 years, Jim became the Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Center and served as the first lay director of the organization. He dedicated 34 years of his life to the CYC. Under his leadership, membership grew and many additional programs were added to enrich the center including woodworking, wrestling, cooking, ballet, guitar lessons and the baby-sitting course, among many more. He succeeded in his vision of improving the CYC camp, Camp St. Michael, to a new level and purpose by further developing the day camp to include a baseball program. Jim was a member of the neighborhood Youth Corps board of directors, a founder and director of the city's Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program and he also helped found and co-chaired the local United Way Capital Campaign. He was a board member of United Community Services and was also a member of former St. Teresa's Parish Council. Additionally, he helped establish the city's first youth girls' basketball program.
Throughout his lifetime, he acquired many awards and distinctions such as: the Jaycees' Distinguished Service Award for leadership achievement and service to the community and the Junior Chamber of Commerce's Distinguished Service Award.
In 2018, Jim was inducted into the Pittsfield Hoop Club Hall of Fame at the Boys and Girls Club for his decades of commitment to local youth. Mr. McNeice's impact continues to be felt, as the MC Bob Shade, noted during the induction in the Hall of Fame.
A member of St. Joseph's Church, which serves as the Mother Church of the Berkshires, Jim served an altar server for funeral masses and was a Eucharistic Minister. A U.S. Navy Veteran of the Korean Conflict, he served aboard the USS Miller, a destroyer which circumnavigated the Globe twice during his deployment. Jim also taught Drivers Ed part-time at St. Joseph's High School and was the Western Massachusetts representative on the board of the state Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association. A graduate of St. Joseph's High School and the New England Industrial Technical School in Boston, he also attended North Adams State College.
Following his retirement, Jim and his family enjoyed camping along the east coast, often stopping to visit relatives along the way. Ultimately, Joan and he arrived in Naples, FL. Together, they loved it so much that they decided to make it their second home. It was there that Jim finally got to enjoy practicing his golf swing on a community course that was practically steps away from his home. Jim was a valued employee of the Devanny-Condron Funeral Home here and during the winter months, at the Fuller Funeral Home in Naples, FL.
His legacy will live on through his service to the community and his love for the City of Pittsfield, but most of all, through the hearts of all the children, parents and hundreds of volunteers that passed through the doors of the CYC, as well as through the memories of his friends and family.
SERVICES: Calling hours at the DEVANNY-CONDRON FUNERAL HOME will be WEDNESDAY from 4 to 7 PM. A Liturgy of Christian Burial will be held privately at St. Joseph's Church with the Rev. Msgr. Michael A. Shershanovich, pastor, officiating. Burial will follow in the Fairview Cemetery in Dalton. If friends desire, memorial donations may be made to the United Way, in care of the funeral home.
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